Hope lies in the great Australian dream
Home Truths: Warren Mundine, third-generation Aboriginal home owner and incoming national ALP president, in his Haberfield, Sydney, backyard yesterday"

by Jonathan Porter
15th August 2005

HOME ownership is a great way to "end the cargo cult mentality" in Aboriginal communities, said third-generation home owner Warren Mundine outside his family house in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Haberfield.

"My children will be the fourth generation in my family to own their own homes," said Mr Mundine, a member of the National Indigenous Council and incoming national president of the ALP.

The 48-year-old's grandfather was a sawmiller and owned a house in Nambucca Heads on the NSW north coast. "My parents owned a house and I own a house with my wife and my son now owns a house and my daughter is getting a house as well."

Mr Mundine's son Warren, 28, runs a small business. His daughter Nicole, 26, is a public servant.

"Owning a home changes people's lives. You have got an asset that you use yourself and that you can pass on to future generations."

The Howard Government is considering a plan to boost indigenous home ownership.

The Prime Minister announced the plan in April during a visit to the Northern Territory community of Wadeye, saying he thought there was "a case for reviewing the whole issue of Aboriginal land title" to allow individuals to buy their own homes.

Mr Mundine said home ownership "makes a total difference for people". "For one thing you don't have a 'cargo cult' mentality."

Mr Mundine told the story of visiting an Aboriginal community where there was a broken sewer pipe.

"I said: 'You can fix that - we'll just get a hessian bag and some concrete - otherwise you're going to have sewage going everywhere'."

"I was told, 'That's not our job, that's ATSIC's job'."

Owning a home changed all that. "If the house is yours you look after it.

"The other thing is, if you own a house you have to be employed.

"You can't willy-nilly wander in and out of jobs, you have to make a go of it."

Mr Mundine said having a mortgage hanging over your head created "a different mindset".

"If the boss is on your back you have to grin and bear it, you can't just say 'I'm out of here'."

Mr Mundine's parents live in Auburn.

"My father bought a house in Grafton in 1947.

"One day we packed up and walked off the mission. We were not going to be controlled by mission management," he said.

A plant operator, Mr Mundine's father learned to operate a grader in civilian service during World War II, working with engineers to build airstrips and roads for the military.

A report to the federal Race Discrimination Commissioner in 1997 found 31 per cent of indigenous people relied on public rental housing compared with 6.8per cent of the non-indigenous population.

Only 28 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families own their own home compared with 67 per cent of all Australian families.

The Australian